New Obamacare Program May Make Medical Homes More Common

More than six years after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was first signed into law, President Barack Obama on Monday announced plans to address what many had hoped the act would do all along: move the nation's health-care system away from a traditional fee-for-service model.

The newly announced Comprehensive Primary Care Plus program, which will be part of the ACA, will impact the way 20,000 doctors serve 25 million patients. The five-year program, which will launch in January 2017, will pay participating providers a fixed monthly fee, along with bonuses for meeting various health goals. Traditionally, those providers have been reimbursed based on the number of patient visits or procedures they log. That approach has long been lambasted by health-care experts as a big reason for rising costs.

The new move could incentivize states to adopt the "health-care home" model of care that's been shown not only to improve health outcomes but also to save billions of dollars. Despite the promising potential of that model, it hasn't been widely embraced by states.

One state that has become a model for health-care homes is Minnesota, which has saved more than $1 billion over the past five years by investing in that form of care, according to a study by the University of Minnesota earlier this year. These health-care homes embody precisely what advocates of a coordinated health-care system want: a one-stop shop for a patient to get all of her health needs met in as few visits as possible.

“The staff, even down to the front desk assistant, are part of a care team. Even the intake is different; you don’t fill out forms because staff that morning already had a huddle about the needs of each patient that day," said Marci Nielsen, president and CEO of the national Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative. "The idea is for all of your medical needs [to] meet you where you are, instead of a 15-minute visit where you’re rushed out of the door."

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